The Woodwise Wardrobe

Your closet may be the last place you’d expect to find wood products, but worldwide, manufacturers make as much cloth from wood pulp as they do from wool.

Most of us have “wood” clothes made from rayon, Tencel, or acetate hanging in our closets. These fabrics are made from a pure form of wood pulp, so it takes a lot of trees to make a relatively small amount of cloth. And only virgin trees will do; there’s no recycled content in rayon.

Much of our rayon comes from developing countries, such as Indonesia, where environmental laws are weak. There is mounting evidence that clothing is responsible for significant forest destruction. Here are some great woodwise wardrobe tips, including interesting information about the new tree-free fiber industry!

WoodWise Wardrobe Tips

1. Look for organic cotton, linen, or industrial hemp instead of rayon. Silk and wool are also good choices. While regular cotton is more forest-friendly than rayon, it causes other environmental problems due to the pesticides used.

2. Buy used clothes, especially children’s items and casual wear. Share or swap clothes with friends and co-workers.

3. Donate your old clothes to the needy or resell them at a consignment store.

Tree-Free Fibers
Beyond “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” another way to conserve forests is to use products that don’t come from trees at all. A new tree-free fiber industry is emerging, offering high-quality paper, clothing, and building materials that don’t depend on forests.

These products are made from agricultural waste and annual crops grown specifically for their fiber, such as kenaf, switchgrass, and industrial hemp. Here’s a quick look at this promising industry.

  • Every year, U.S. farmers produce enough waste from growing rice, wheat, straw, corn, and soybeans to replace all the wood fiber that is currently used in paper and lumber.
  • The amount of kenaf grown in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the past three years, to 18,000 acres.
  • In 1998, the Canadian government lifted the restrictions on growing industrial hemp, but a similar ban is still in effect in the U.S. Canadian farmers and government officials were pleased with the results of their first harvest in 60 years.

    Adapted from a special edition of The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jean Giono, with Co-op America's "Woodwise Consumer Guide." Copyright (c) 1985 by Chelsea Green Publishing. Reprinted by permission of Chelsea Green Publishing.
    Adapted from a special edition of The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jean Giono, with Co-op America's "Woodwise Consumer Guide."


Tanya W.
Tanya W5 years ago


Luisa Barr
Luisa Bar5 years ago


a             y m.
g d c5 years ago


Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers7 years ago

There are some amazing fabrics around nowadays. Keep a lookout for them.

Beng Kiat Low
low beng kiat7 years ago


Janet P.
Janet P9 years ago

Keep your eye out for garments made from soy protein, which is produced from the waste remaining after soy processing. To read more check out

Gloria Wood
Gloria Wood9 years ago

My wardrobe is about 60% used, and I donate my castoffs to charity. I can't wear wool because it makes my skin itch, and I buy cotton because I don't want chemical plastics such as polyester and nylon against my skin. Until now I had no idea acetate and rayon are made from wood. I must check my closet. I learn so many ways to grow green here. Thanks for the useful information.

Joseph C.
Joseph C9 years ago

Bamboo is great BUT it definately depends on the country of origin of where it was made. China for example has a proprietary process that creates a toxic soup rendering it less environmental than manufacturing traditional cotton here in the US. European and American bamboo clothing processes are much better and most often require a closed-loop process.

Marisu Nea Darkness
Past Member 10 years ago

If you haven't had enough with making your children "inherit" their older sibling(s)'s clothes, and want your children to be truly unhappy, buy them recycled clothing as well.

And don't complain if you get put in an asylum when they grow.

Wanna go green? Then do it yourself.

Desiree Young
Desiree Young10 years ago

I'm against buying silk, but I'm a big fan of organic cotton and hemp. It's so comfortable! I'm totally shocked, because I had no idea that trees were used to make those fabrics. What an eye opener!

Does anyone know of a website or company that makes clothes using kenaf or switchgrass? I've never heard of these two.